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Katrina&Rita: Silver Lining or Opportunity?

We have delayed publishing this article for a few weeks because we did not want to appear to be jumping on the already overloaded bandwagon. We were also trying to find an appropriate alternative to “silver lining”. In our opinion the use of such a term in the wake of a tragedy of this proportion is not only wrong; it is insensitive and even obscene. People suffered and died, pets died, an entire way of life was greatly and horribly affected; in some cases, the affect is permanent. In all cases, it was traumatic almost beyond comprehension.

So while we would not call it a silver lining, we do see opportunities in the Gulf Coast area, particularly for the hospitality and tourism industry. Prior to the storms there were several beautiful and very successful hotel, resorts, and casinos employing thousands of workers throughout the area. These establishments were patronized annually by millions of visitors, local, regional, national, and international. Once the initial shock is past, these same visitors will return, and will undoubtedly be joined by others.

To paraphrase a movie tagline, “if you rebuild it, they will come”. Why not rebuild it even better than it was? If the Gulf Coast is rebuilt, as we are sure it will be, it will certainly rebound to new heights. How do we know this? We know this because the region has seen devastation in the past, and has always rebounded. America is a resilient nation, created by a resilient determined people, and sustained through numerous crises by their descendants for more than two centuries.

This southern part of American has endured all those crises, and some of its own. A hundred and forty years ago, the South was virtually in ruin after the Civil War; it rose again and prospered.

In 1900 Galveston, Texas was almost totally destroyed by a hurricane, with a loss of thousands of lives; Galveston came back and prospered.

In the 1930’s the American South was particularly hard hit by the Great Depression; the South rose again and prospered again. In recent years, the hospitality and tourism industry has been a key player in the South’s economic recovery by providing thousands of jobs in previously depressed areas.

In 1946 Texas City, Texas was heavily damaged by a maritime explosion, again with many casualties; the city and surrounding area rebounded and became an important port and major player in the oil and petrochemical industry.

In 1957, Hurricane Audrey ravaged a large part of Southwest Louisiana, including Cameron Parish which Rita has just revisited. I was there and can personally attest to the extent of the damage and loss of life. Yet Cameron and the surrounding area came back and again prospered.

These are just a few highlights; the list goes on with Hurricanes Camille, Betsy, and many others too numerous to name. Our point is simple: destruction and devastation is nothing new to the people of the Gulf Coast; they have been through it all before in varying degrees, and they have always responded, rebounded, and rebuilt. With Katrina and Rita, only the names are new. It may take longer this time, but the final result will be the same. If there is an opportunity in all this, perhaps it is for the resort, casino, and hotel operators to not only rebuild and reopen quickly, but to improve their physical facilities, offer better guest services, and enhance the atmosphere. Guests will certainly come back; why not give them even more to come back to?

B>Cheryl Thompson Griggs, an award winning interior designer earned her Bachelor Degree in Interior Design and Resource Management from Virginia Tech, and has spent nearly a decade working with the Colonial Williamsburg Hotel Properties.

Harry Nobles, former head of the AAA Hotel Ratings Program offers his expertise as a hospitality consultant to leading hotels and management companies. Focusing on improving guest services and maximizing guest satisfaction.

Optimum Rating is a world-renowned hospitality consulting firm specializing in obtaining maximum AAA and Mobil Ratings for new or established hotel properties.

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